The Friendly Bench CIC, a social enterprise which tackles loneliness and social isolation, is delighted to announce the expansion of their network in Bury, Ipswich, Chester, East Rugby, Rotherham and Halesowen, with further locations to follow within the next year, thanks to £240K National Lottery funding.
Launched in March 2018 by Lyndsey Young, The Friendly Bench CIC was created to tackle loneliness, social isolation and community disconnectedness, by using innovative social space, The Friendly Bench. According to the UK’s Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 1.2 million lonely older people in the UK, and 9 million lonely people in total – increasing the risk of mortality by 26%, with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
The Friendly Bench is specially designed and built following Disability Discrimination Act guidelines. It’s a safe, easily accessible mini community garden with integrated seating and organic, sensory planting. The Friendly Benches are situated within communities for people to meet, chat, connect, build friendships and find a sense of belonging in a growing disconnected, lonely world. They’re active social hubs where free activities and events are regularly held to encourage everyone to participate, have fun, feel accepted and validated, and develop a support network.
With support from The National Lottery Community Fund, The Friendly Bench CIC is extending their network across England, starting in March 2020. They have identified and will be working with a diverse mix of dedicated community groups and voluntary organisations who are all committed to bringing people together and building a more inclusive, connected community.
Benefits of The Friendly Bench include:
Increased social interaction.
Improved wellbeing and self-esteem
Improved physical and mental health
Reduced loneliness and social isolation
Increased community resilience.
Increased connection with nature (and the wildlife benefits that brings).
Increased connection with local services
Each The Friendly Bench is community-led, with volunteers running regular activities and events including intergenerational gardening projects; ‘Blokes, a brew and banter’ get togethers, afternoon teas and kerbside concerts. Every community is encouraged to recognise and contribute its own assets, skills and gifts. As a member of The Friendly Bench network, each group also receives free advice, support, sharing of best practice, marketing resources, publicity and promotion from The Friendly Bench™ CIC team.
Lyndsey Young, Founder of The Friendly Bench CIC said, “I created The Friendly Bench after suffering from loneliness and social isolation myself. Bringing together my design knowledge and experience of working on nature and wellbeing projects, The Friendly Bench was born. Being closer to nature, active social spaces and bringing people together is what it’s all about – with community at its core. By creating a free to use ‘outdoor living room’ in the heart of the community, it means it’s accessible and inclusive for everyone.”
“Thanks to National Lottery players we are partnering with groups across the country who share our values, understand the importance building social connections and can grow with us. Our distinctive The Friendly Bench will be in the heart of communities across the country, each one operating uniquely to reflect the needs of its neighbourhood, each one helping to reconnect more people back to their community.
Morag Scargill, Friends of the Countess of Chester Country Park said, ““We are so thrilled Friends of the Countess of Chester Country Park has been chosen to have The Friendly Bench. Working together with our local schools, hospital, university and older residents we hope to develop a community of people who will gain self-worth from being involved in this wonderful project. We are confident The Friendly Bench will bring countless health and wellbeing benefits to many people in our community and encourage people to come together.”
Joyce, 75 , Local resident, said: “It’s a wonderful scheme. “It’s really lovely, my neighbour, who recently lost her husband, and I come here often, it’s a lovely place, you always get into a conversation. I can also see it from my window, it’s lovely to look out on.”
The Friendly Bench has also won praise from Loneliness Minister, Baroness Diana Barran, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Civil Society, Lords Minister at DCMS as well as former Loneliness Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, who said, “It is such a creative but wonderfully simple idea to help combat loneliness. It was by far one of my favourite schemes to hear about during my time as Minister, not least because it seems an incredibly cost-effective was of creating connections within a micro-community. I would love to see many more Friendly Benches across the country.”
For further information and photos please contact:
Founder of The Friendly Bench CIC